Tripadvisor has added a warning to a Thai resort’s listing after the property filed criminal charges against a guest for posting negative reviews.
The resort, Sea View Resort and Spa in Koh Chang, took legal action against an American ex-pat named Wesley Barnes in July after he posted a review on Tripadvisor accusing the property of “modern-day slavery”.
The lawsuit led to Barnes being arrested and held for two days after being charged under Thailand’s strict defamation laws.
The two reached a settlement last month after a mediation session.
“This hotel or individuals associated with this hotel filed criminal charges against a Tripadvisor user in relation to the traveller writing and posting online reviews,” the warning, which appears at the top of the listing, reads.
“The reviewer spent time in jail as a result. Tripadvisor serves its users best when travellers are free to share their opinions and experiences on our platform – both positive and negative.
“The hotel may have been exercising its legal rights under local law, however, it is our role to inform you so you may take this into consideration when researching your travel plans.”
A spokesperson for the resort told Travel Weekly it was “disappointed” with Tripadvisor and said the platform had not remained impartial and dishonoured an agreement.
“The hotel respects the consumer’s right to express opinions and welcomes constructive feedback and authentic reviews,” the spokesperson said.
“The hotel has always taken guest’s feedback to assist us in improving ourselves. Guests’ dissatisfied reviews are always answered via the review website which is our standard response procedure.”
The spokesperson said Barnes had created a number of “false” and “malicious” reviews to “purposely defame the hotel on several websites, causing damage to the hotel”.
“He used fake accounts to create malicious reviews with content including slavery, xenophobia, and coronavirus,” the spokesperson said.
“We had tried to contact the guest several times to request him to stop his actions. However, the guest refused to respond to or acknowledge the hotel’s correspondences and continued to post malicious reviews online.
“As a last resort, the hotel was required to file a report and take legal action to protect our rights, our business, and our employees’ welfare who had been abused by the guest.”
The spokesperson accused Tripadvisor of not providing all the facts regarding the case making their notification “very misleading”.
A spokeswoman for Tripadvisor told Travel Weekly the platform posted the warning to alert travellers.
“Tripadvisor believes in the right of every traveller to write about their first-hand travelling experiences – good or bad,” she said.
“Travellers love to share good news about their travel and dining experiences on our platform. Most negative reviews posted are valuable customer service and learning experiences for businesses who choose to constructively engage this feedback.
“However, Tripadvisor strongly opposes any action where a business, like the Sea View Hotel & Spa in Koh Chang, uses local law to send someone to jail for expressing their opinion.”
Featured image: seaviewkohchang.com